I Am More Than... Dysautonomia : Meet Rachel & Chewy

I Am More Than... Dysautonomia : Meet Rachel & Chewy

At Reboundwear, we are so inspired by the stories our customers share with us. From fly fishers to artists, we know that our customers are everyabled--and are so much more than their injuries or diagnoses. That’s why we’re launching “I Am More Than,” a new article series introducing our incredible customers, and giving them a platform to tell their stories. 

First up, we’re so excited to introduce you to Rachel, a joyful 41-year-old with an amazing attitude--and her own education company. Rachel homeschools and tutors children on the autism spectrum and those with learning difficulties, including those who are very advanced and who require enrichment. 

Although she loves her work--she’s been at it for 15 years--she’s at a point in her life where she’s reevaluating and reshuffling, figuring out something new that keeps her interested and grounded, but that requires less than a 90-hour work week. 

“I am a bleeding heart,” Rachel explains. “I don’t have the ability to say the company is over,” even though her dysautonomia and other health issues make what would be an exhausting (even if rewarding) career for anyone even tougher: about a third of her day is devoted to all of the things that go into her health, including physical and occupational therapies, her port, doctors appointments, and procedures. 

And then there’s training for Chewbacca, her Dysautonomia Medical Alert Dog and Familial Mediterranean Fever & Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) Mobility Dog. 


“People talk about service dogs who take different levels of effort,” Rachel explains. “We started off with three hours a day working with a marine corps captain…[and we were] accepted to Fit to Work, and now we have a full, custom gym in our backyard!” 

According to their website, Fit to Work is a “formalized working dog foundational physical fitness assessment and development program... developed by The Penn Vet Working Dog Center to address the needs of working dog handlers, trainers, and programs for simple, effective, and efficient methods to develop and assess working dog physical fitness.” 

In other words, Fit to Work helps dogs like Chewy develop strength, stability, mobility, and proprioception to help people like Rachel.  

Chewy first had to be assessed and cleared as a mobility dog before Fit to Work took him on. The work ranges from training sessions to obedience sessions, which means before she knows it, Rachel has spent over three hours a day training Chewy with Fit to Work. But it’s completely worth it: Chewy is being trained to help Rachel with her day to day activities--and to potentially save her life.

If Rachel is walking through a grocery store and drops the flour off the shelf, she may not be able to crouch down and get it; Chewy can get it and put it in the cart for her. Or if she starts wobbling, he’ll get closer to her, and places the handle that’s attached to him under her hand to steady her. 

Even more impressive, he can smell the changes in her heart rate, and can tell her when she’s Tachycardic: when she goes over a certain threshold that he was given, Chewy alerts her to her elevated heart rate. 

“Before that dog came around, I collapsed at least once a day,” Rachel tells us. “I could have died. That dog keeps me alive. 

“[Before I had Chewy,] three times people called ambulances but walked away; [they didn’t know] it was Dysautonomia, not drugs or alcohol. My heart rate was up at 190 and I had no blood pressure. Now i have a dog with a patch on his vest saying what’s wrong, and don’t separate dog from handler. 

“He missed his first alert yesterday in 1.5 years,” Rachel adds. “And he felt so bad. We had a friend here and when he realized what had happened, he went and got her and almost knocked her over. He was having a panic attack because I was Tachychardic.”

With a clear love for Chewy and a passion for training medical dogs, we have a feeling Rachel’s found her next gig. We can’t wait to follow Chewy’s training and best-friendship with Rachel--be sure to follow them on @chewbaccaatyourservice on Instagram! 

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